I love checklists. They break down detailed processes into actionable, step-by-step items.
I try to create them for all my recurring projects so I don’t miss a beat when the task comes around again.
The same goes for publishing content.
With so many moving parts to keep track of before you publish a piece of content, a checklist comes in handy.
Here are the 16 items you must check before publishing content:
1. Is my headline effective?
Does your headline entice readers to click through? Brainstorm multiple headline ideas to see all the possible combinations and angles, then ask a colleague or friend which one stands out most and why.
2. Does my content have a main takeaway?
Have you ever read an article, and by the end you asked yourself, “What was that all about?” Go back to English 101—make sure your content has a thesis. Ask yourself a few questions to double-check your work:
- Why am I writing this?
- What do I want someone to take away from this?
- What’s my main point?
- Do I prove my main point through supplementary arguments and examples?
3. What is my call to action?
Ask, “What do I want my readers to do?”
Maybe all you want them to do is read, learn or leave a comment. Maybe you want them to take an action, such as download a free guide or register for a webinar. Think through the steps you must take to implement any action that takes place beyond your content.
4. Is my content useful?
Hopefully you asked this question before you produced the bulk of your content, but it’s helpful to add it to your pre-flight process anyway. All content should connect to your strategic goals, but more important, it should be useful to your audience. As Jay Baer says, smart marketing is about help, not hype. Useful content aligns your marketing with that vision.
5. Is my content error-free?
We’ve all had those cringe-worthy moments when we see a typo or two in a recently published blog post. How did we miss that?
Sometimes we only have a macro perspective of our blogs. Take a moment to go micro and look at the details. Double-check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. It’s also helpful to read your work out loud to hear how the piece flows.
6. Is my content visually interesting?
Content should be easy to read, scan and view on different devices. Play with formatting elements, such as bullets, numbered lists, quote call-outs and sections. You don’t want to overwhelm readers before they even start reading, so ensure your content visually invites a reader in, rather than pushing him away.
7. Did I break up my content into sections with headings?
One of the best ways to break up a wall of text is by using sections. Not only does it help you get your point across, but it looks and reads better. In this article I categorized my checklist by “content,” “formatting,” “optimization” and “final steps.” This makes the list of 16 items more digestible and easy to scan.
8. Did I include images?
Humans are visual creatures, so appeal to them with images, photographs and graphics that tell your content’s story. The amount of images you should include within a piece depends on the piece’s length, but always include them. If you don’t have a designer, use free stock photo sites such as Wikimedia Commons or Unsplash.
9. Did I optimize my images?
Adding images is just the first step. You also have to optimize your images.
Because search engines can’t “see” images as humans can, they have to use the information available to them: the ALT tag and file name. If your image is of a Boston terrier puppy, then your file name should be boston-terrier-puppy.jpg. The ALT tag should be the same or more descriptive (“Boston terrier puppy resting in grass”). This gives your images a fighting chance of being indexed and showing up in mixed search results or Google Images.
10. Did I include internal and external links?
Links are the Internet’s currency. They are a way to lead readers to relevant content on or off your site. Internal links move people to more of your content for additional information or possible product and service content. External links point to material off your site that will help readers dive deeper into the topic.
11. Are my categories and tags set up?
Depending on the infrastructure of the site where your content appears, the category and tags will vary. Know the guidelines before you check any boxes to ensure that you are in line with the site’s search engine optimization and taxonomy best practices.
I like to think of these items like a funnel, with the category at the wide end of your topic and the tags at the narrow end. It’s a common practice to have one category and multiple tags.
12. Did I complete my meta information?
Remember, the best title and meta description may not be the best fit for Google, literally. Make sure they fit into the space on Google’s search engine results page. (Google made font size changes in 2014.) A good rule to follow is to keep your title 55 characters or fewer and the meta description at 155 characters or fewer. Either way, always check with a tool such as Moz’s Title Tag tool.
13. Is my URL appropriate?
Your URL matters, too. Content management systems often auto-generate them, but make sure they are what you want. If you change your title mid-production, revise your URL structure to reflect the change.
14. Did I preview my post?
Don’t unleash your content until you’ve seen how it will look when it’s live. It’s easy to preview content within a content management system, so take advantage of this feature to take a final look.
15. Did I schedule my post?
If you have a set time to publish your content, schedule it right away to avoid accidentally publishing your draft. If you don’t know when you will publish, research which times and days work best.
16. Do I have a promotional plan?
Do you know what will happen after you press “Publish”? Have a plan so once your content goes live, you can attract as many eyes as possible.
Follow these 16 steps or add your own to create an exhaustive checklist that will guide your content strategy.
Arnie Kuenn is the CEO of Vertical Measures, a full-service Internet marketing agency dedicated to helping clients drive profitable growth through content marketing. A version of this article originally appeared on Convince & Convert.